Scottish side Rangers, where four Nigerian players ply their trade, will have to continue their quest for UEFA Europa League glory another time. German’s Eintracht Frankfurt came from behind to deadlock the match 1-1 after extra time and then prevailed 5-4 in the shootout with former Arsenal midfielder Aaron Ramsey the only one to miss a penalty on the night.
It’s Frankfurt’s first Europa League triumph, although they won the precursor – the UEFA Cup – in 1980.
The Nigerian continent in Rangers include 25-year-old midfielder, Joseph Oluwaseyi Temitope Ayodele-Aribo (simply known as Joe Aribo) who struck with the first goal of the match in the 57th minute. Calvin Bassey, whose blunder in defence led to Frankfurt’s equaliser in the 69th minute through Colombian Rafael Santos Borré, made his bow for the Super Eagles in the ouster of Nigeria from the 2022 FIFA World Cup finals by Ghana’s Black Stars.
Super Eagles defender Leon Balogun was an unused substitute, while 22-year-old Nathan Nnamdi Ofoborh was not in the squad for the night.
Ofoborh is yet to play for Nigeria at the senior level. He featured in the team for the FIFA U20 World Cup in Poland, where Nigeria crashed out in the Round of 16 to Senegal.
The new Europa League champions Frankfurt, fifth in Bundesliga last season, started at the group stage of the Europa League and won three matches, while drawing the remaining three to be the top team in won Group D.
As group winners, the German club progressed to the Round of 16 and eliminated Real Betis, then kicked out Barcelona 4-3 in the last eight, before humiliating West Ham 3-1 in the semi-final.
On their part, Rangers started their journey in Europe this season in the elite Champions League having won the Scottish title but got beaten by Sweden’s Malmo FF 4-2 aggregate (1-2 at home and away) in the third round. The side then dropped to the Europa League starting at the playoff phase. The Scottish champions beat Armenia’s Alashkert 1-0 aggregate to advance to the group stage finishing that phase in the second spot behind Lyon in Group A.
In the knockout phase, Rangers eliminated Borussia Dortmund (6-4), Red Star Belgrade (4-2), Braga (3-2), and RB Leipzig (3-2) to reach the final.
Although they had dominated the home scene, winning the Scottish topflight league a record 55 times – the recent being last season – Rangers had succeeded in Europe only once before now, winning the now rested European Cup Winners Cup in 1972.